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Learning BUY the Book?

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

As I have already established in earlier posts, we are testing a ‘trial’ year of laptop use for one year group at our school. The parent information evening is this coming week. It has been an exciting time. One of the issues we will be working through will be related to textbook resourcing. Do we encourage outright textbook purchases, e-textbooks, subscription, book hire or etc?

I know that many colleges and schools have already gone through this minefield and I am very interested in the range of responses that are available in e-land. A few years ago we initiated a book hire program to attempt to cut down the cost of text books for parents – in some cases a single textbook choice (especially in our Upper School year groups) could be in the $120 – $150 range. For a low-fee paying school, these are exorbitant text purchases (especially if the student chose to drop the course and move to another mid year!)

If you have seen any of the IPad book applications or really interacted with an e-textbook, they are truly amazing. Double-click a word to access a dictionary/thesaurus on the spot, bookmark, highlight and add a comprehensive note in the margin (some allow colour coding and themed tabs, etc).  There is a WOW factor for the desk bound user (though IPads open a few more learning environments).

This having been said, I suspect that there is still some anxiety about any ‘e-moves’ in this arena. People may be willing to experiment with a book that is chosen for ‘interest’ but there is a sense of ‘risk’ in utilising these alternative text types if a child’s education is standing in the balance. 

Price is a factor too. In general an ‘e-textbook’ will cost about 25-50% of the original price; some are available at a cheaper rate if you agree to a subscription cost, e.g. 180 day subscription. Pearson have launched a comprehensive site at  http://www.coursesmart.com/ . It is well ‘hidden’, perhaps there is some concern about taking business from Pearson book sellers? E-text availability also has a political element with many texts not available in electronic form through the main sellers unless their printing-house has secured an agreement with the ‘reseller’.

Attitudinally, purchasers are sometimes less willing to part with good money for a ‘virtual’ commodity, I know I still struggle with wanting a tangible ‘something’ for my money – I suppose that is why software is sold in BOXES. Perhaps it is just my age but I like the ‘feel’ of a good book, it is more transportable, I can read it places where I may not take a computer, I can read it lying down, the ownership quotient is higher. I have a ‘feel’ for ‘where I read that bit’.  

I will be interested to see how this experiment unfolds at our school and how well some of these changes are received.

You can trial an E-Textbook  of your choice for FREE by visiting   http://www.coursesmart.com/ – you will need to register with a CC. I’m having fun with a free English textbook from the US.